Most children with special educational needs in Brighton & Hove are educated in mainstream schools and this includes most children with Statements or Education, Health and Care Plans.
Children with more significant learning difficulties and EHC Plans or Statements of SEN may go to one of the city’s special schools or to a special unit attached to a mainstream school. This page will explain more about both types of school. If you want to find out more about how schools should assess and support children with special educational needs, read the section called SEN – the basics. On this page we talk about both EHC Plans (often called EHCPs) and Statements. This is because, from September 2014, EHC Plans have replaced Statements but children who already have a Statement will transfer to an EHC Plan over the next three years.
All mainstream schools in the city must welcome and cater for children with special educational needs and disabilities, except in very limited circumstances when they can prove that it would be detrimental to other pupils. Schools must have a policy on SEN and a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) who is responsible for overseeing the support the school gives to all their pupils with special needs. Secondary schools may call this person the Inclusion Coordinator or have one of each. All schools are also covered by the Equality Act and have a duty not to discriminate against disabled pupils. They should have a Disability Equality Scheme and an access plan. Read more about the Equality Act in ‘Bullying, discrimination and exclusions’
If you are worried about how your child is learning or behaving at school you should start by talking to their class teacher or their form tutor if they are at secondary school. They may share your worries and you can discuss how to help your child make progress, what extra help they can offer and whether some expert advice is needed. In a primary school you might then go to the head teacher and in a secondary school to the head of year. You can also contact the SENCO with any concerns. You can also ask for information about your child’s progress such as the national curriculum level they are working at or their reading age. Schools have to record and monitor all children’s progress and they should be happy to share this with you. It is a good idea to put things in writing too and keep a record of all your contacts with the school.
Some parents feel they have to battle to get their child’s school to recognise and meet their child’s needs, but most schools aim to do their best for every child. Over the years you may have times when all goes well and times when you need to raise some issues again. Parents’ evenings, SEN Support reviews and (for children with EHCPs or Statements) annual reviews are a chance to discuss how things are going, but don’t wait for these if you think there is a problem. Aim to be polite and get staff on the side of you and your child. It usually pays to do all you can to work well with the school, but if you do feel this is not happening you can ask Amaze for advice and help. If you are really unhappy and thinking about making a complaint, remember that school governors are ultimately responsible for their school meeting the needs of children with special needs.
Parents often feel unsure about how much help it is reasonable to expect a school to provide so it is worth knowing just a little about how SEN is funded. Most funding for SEN is in the hands of schools. This is shared out between schools based on a formula that should roughly match the proportion of children with special needs they have compared to other schools. This is meant to fund all the help they give on SEN Support and nearly all EHC Plans or Statements. Schools get top up funding for some children with EHC Plans who have been assessed as having higher levels of need i.e. more than £6000 worth of extra help. Check with Amaze if you need the latest information.
Most schools make use of teaching assistants to give much of the day to day help with special needs but this should always be directed by a teacher or the SENCO. If you and the school want more advice about the nature of your child’s needs and strategies to help them learn, the school can get an Educational Psychologist (EP) to see your child. EPs are employed by the LA. All schools have access to a certain amount of time from an EP each year, but of course this means they have to make choices about how best to make use of this time for all the children about whom they have concerns. If an EP sees your child, you should be told and they should also speak to you to get your views. Schools can also draw on advice and support from a range of learning support services run by the LA. These address particular types of need and all have criteria about which children they can work with. They have teachers with experience and training on those needs. Often they will not work directly with your child; instead they focus on setting a programme of work for the school to provide, or training and advising school staff.
Language Support Service (LSS): For pupils with speech and language difficulties. This service has specialist language teachers that work closely with speech and language therapy services.
Literacy Support Service (LSS): For pupils with specific learning difficulties/dyslexia. All the teachers have specialist qualifications in teaching children with specific learning difficulties. Schools have to decide to buy in this service but most do.
Sensory Needs Service (SNS): For pupils with hearing or visual impairment. This service makes contact with families as soon as their child is identified to have HI or VI and follows them through from babyhood up to 19. It has teachers with a specialist qualification in HI, VI and multi-sensory impairment, plus an educational audiologist, a family support worker, a habilitation officer and a specialist Braille teaching assistant.
ASC Support Service (ASCSS): For pupils with autistic spectrum conditions. Your child must have a firm diagnosis for this service to get involved. ASCSS teachers have extensive experience in working with ASC. There is also a parent liaison worker.
Special school outreach: All the local special schools offer advice and support to mainstream schools to promote the successful inclusion of children with complex needs.
Behaviour and Attendance Partnership (BAP): The BAP has a varied role in supporting the education of children with BESD (behavioural, emotional and social difficulties). This includes managing a primary behaviour outreach team, the Connected Hub and the Brighton and Hove Pupil Referral Unit (BHPRU). The PRU provides education for children with BESD, including excluded pupils, at Lynchet Close and Dyke Road, usually on a short term basis working towards returning to a mainstream school.
Some services are not specifically for pupils with SEND, but also help and advise schools:
Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS): For pre-school and school pupils whose first language is not English. EMAS has specialist English as an additional language (EAL) teachers, teaching assistants, bilingual assistants and home school liaison officers
Education Other than at School Service (EOTAS): Hospital Teaching for children while they are in hospital and the Home Tuition Service for pupils who are too ill to attend school for more than six weeks.
Traveller Education Service: For children from traveller families.
The guidance recommends putting these individual arrangements in an Individual Healthcare Plan that sets out: the child’s medical condition; the help they need at school as a result, including emotional, educational and practical support; who will provide this and any training they need to be able to do that; permissions around medication; arrangements for things like school trips; and what to do in an emergency. Children with medical needs may or may not also have SEN. If they have an EHCP, their individual healthcare plan should be linked or combined with the EHCP. If you don’t feel you are getting a good response from school around your child’s medical needs, you can get advice and support from Amaze.
Some local mainstream schools have special units or facilities which cater for children with certain types of special needs. Children usually spend some of their time in mainstream classes and some in the facility.
Autistic spectrum conditions: Primary facilities at West Blatchington Primary School (key stage 1 and 2). Secondary at the Swan Centre, at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) and the Phoenix Centre at Hove Park School.
Hearing impairment: Primary hearing support facility at Bevendean Primary School. Secondary unit at Priory School in Lewes (shared with East Sussex).
Speech and language difficulties: Primary facility at Carden Primary School. Secondary at the Swan Centre at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) and the Phoenix Centre at Hove Park School.
Specific learning difficulties (dyslexia): Secondary facility at Longhill High School.
Brighton and Hove has six special schools that are run by the LA. Most children at special schools go there full-time but many will also have some mainstream inclusion activities, perhaps with the aim of switching to mainstream at some stage or just to give them different experiences.
The Cedar Centre: Caters for children aged 6 to 16 with complex needs and moderate learning difficulties, mostly from the east of the city. Primary department (Year 1 to Year 5) is co-located with Coldean Primary School.
Downs Park School: Caters for children aged 5 to 16 with complex needs and moderate learning difficulties, mostly from the west of the city.
Patcham House School: Patcham House takes secondary age children with complex needs that would make it hard for them to learn in a mainstream secondary school. These include emotional and mental health issues and autistic spectrum conditions.
The Cedar Centre, Downs Park and Patcham House work together as a federation, but children are given a place at one of the schools.
Downs View School: For children with severe or profound learning difficulties from age 4 to 19, mostly from the east of the city. Pupils may have additional disabilities such as autism, sensory needs, physical disabilities, medical needs and challenging behaviour. Downs View Link College (DVLC) is part of the school but located next to Varndean Sixth Form College. DVLC takes young people from 16 to 19 with severe or profound learning difficulties from all over the city.
Hillside School: For children with severe or profound learning difficulties from age 5 to 16, mostly from the west of the city. Pupils may have additional disabilities such as autism, sensory needs, physical disabilities, medical needs and challenging behaviour.
Homewood College: Caters for secondary age children with emotional and behavioural difficulties (BESD) at Queensdown Road. Other education for pupils with BESD is now provided via the Behaviour and Attendance Partnership at the Connected Hub and Brighton and Hove PRU (see page 112). The PRU also provide full time school provision for primary age children with an EHCP for BESD at their Lynchet Close site.
Out of city placements
There are many other special schools up and down the country that are run privately or by charities. They are known as non-maintained special schools or agency placements. They may offer highly specialised provision, weekly or termly boarding and in some cases 52 week care and education. Very occasionally a child is placed in one of these schools. For example the LA may fund a profoundly deaf child to attend Hamilton Lodge School (a non-maintained special school for deaf children in Brighton) because it offers a British Sign Language signing environment. But agency placements are often an expensive option and can take children away from their local area, so the LA will only choose to use them when a child’s needs cannot be met in a Brighton and Hove school.
Some parents’ experience is that their child had to ‘fail’ at a local school to prove this. In recent years the LA has been working to make sure its own special schools can meet the needs of all local children with specialised needs and this has successfully reduced the number of children placed out of the city. If you feel your child needs an out of city school and the LA disagrees, you would have to successfully make a case at the SEN first tier tribunal. Read more about tribunals and appeals.
How can you tell if the school is right? You just have to go and see, don’t you, and you know what your child is like. Can you picture them being there? It’s just the same as ordinary children.
We probably should not call this section ‘choosing a school’ as often parents do not really get to choose. Usually we have the right to state a preference for the school we would like for our child, without a guarantee that we will get this. This might be through the normal admissions process or because your child has an EHCP or Statement. This is one of the occasions when it may help to call the Amaze helpline for information as you and your child’s rights vary in each situation. Amaze has also published a fact sheet called Choosing a School which covers this in more detail along with advice about what to look for when visiting a school.
Most parents will be looking at mainstream schools and trying to choose the one best suited to their child. Use the council website or the Admissions department to find the schools in your area. Ask other parents, but remember word of mouth can be out of date. Look at the Local Offer, Ofsted inspection reports, school prospectuses and the SEN information report on the school’s website. Don’t judge a school just by league tables. Schools lower down the league tables may have the best experience on special needs. All this can help you work out a short list of schools to visit. When you visit a mainstream school:
- Talk to the head and try to get an idea of the school’s overall attitude towards children with special needs, and more specifically to your child’s special needs. Have they had a child with similar needs before? Look at the school’s special needs policy.
- Meet the school’s special needs co-coordinator (SENCO). Find out how much time they have away from teaching to devote to special needs work. Do they know about your child’s disability or sound ready to learn?
- Try to find out what resources the school has for children with special needs, such as extra classroom helpers, learning support teachers and visiting specialists.
- Walk around and ask yourself, ‘Can I picture my child here?’
If your child has more complex needs you may have to decide whether you want a mainstream or a special school for them. There are advantages and disadvantages to each choice. Some parents feel it is most important that their child is included at the heart of their local community and can mix with a cross section of children at a mainstream school. Other parents choose special because they feel it will be simpler to make sure their child’s needs are met and their child will find it easier to make friends there. These days the choice is less stark than in the past as mainstream schools get more outreach from special schools and more children at special schools spend time included in mainstream. Download our Choosing a School fact sheet
The local authority should provide free transport if your child is aged 5 to 16 and you live too far (over two miles for under 8s, over three miles for over 8s) from their nearest suitable school. Bear in mind that most children in the city live closer to a suitable school than this. There are extra rules for help with transport if you are on a low income. ‘Free transport’ can mean a bus pass to use local bus services. Occasionally primary age children will get transport to school if their parents are medically unfit to take them.
Children can also qualify for free transport if they are unable to walk to school due to their particular disability or special need. In this case they are more likely to get actual transport such as a taxi or minibus. This must be safe and suitable, so some children will also get an escort. As they get older they will be encouraged to learn to travel to school independently where this is possible and switch over to walking or using local buses with a bus pass. This is an important life skill to learn if they can.
It used to be the case that most children at special schools and units got transport more or less without question, as did quite a number of pupils with SEN in mainstream schools. This has changed. Transport costs have spiralled and the LA will now look carefully at each individual case. They will be looking for evidence that this is the nearest suitable school or that your child realistically can’t walk there. If you express a preference for a school and the LA think there is another suitable school nearer your home they may argue that they should not cover the transport costs. This might happen for example if you live in the east of the city but prefer a special school in the west. You may find you have to challenge the LA’s decision about transport in this case.
School transport is dealt with by the Transport Team in Children’s Services. The city council website gives a detailed explanation about school transport so check the School Transport page on the council website for more details or call them on 01273 293498. There is an appeal process if you are unhappy with a decision about transport for your child. And you can call the Amaze helpline for advice.